The University of Oxford is studying a nasal spray version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine among 30 young, healthy volunteers, and will assess the induced immune response, safety and any side effects.
The early-stage trial will enroll adults aged 18 to 40 from the Oxford area, and researchers will conduct four months of follow-up, according to a release posted Thursday.
"Some immunologists believe that delivering the vaccine to the site of infection may achieve enhanced protection, especially against transmission, and mild disease," Dr. Sandy Douglas, clinician-scientist and chief investigator of the study, said in the release. "We hope this small safety-focused study will lay the foundation for future larger studies that are needed to test whether giving the vaccine this way does protect against coronavirus infection."
Douglas suggested the nasal spray could boost vaccine uptake because some may prefer the method over an injection. She also hinted at "practical advantages" afforded by the spray, which could help along with vaccination efforts in schools.
"[The nasal spray] is an important first step towards increasing our range of options for curtailing the spread and impact of COVID-19 globally," Dr. Meera Madhavan, lead clinical research fellow, Jenner Institute, added in part.
AstraZeneca plans to file for U.S. FDA emergency authorization for its vaccine in the coming weeks, though the company has faced significant issues overseas after over a dozen mostly European countries temporarily halted shots over reports of blood clots in some vaccinated individuals.
U.K. and EU regulators have both since confirmed the vaccine does not heighten the overall risk for blood clotting, and actually likely reduces the risk because COVID-19 disease itself is a precursor for coagulation. However, the suspended campaigns dented vaccine trust, experts say. This week, the company faced scrutiny after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said it may have provided an incomplete view of efficacy data. Since-released data demonstrated a 76% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19.
The earlier data reflected 79% efficacy in preventing symptomatic infections and 100% efficacy at preventing severe disease and hospitalization. The new analysis also reported 100% efficacy "against severe or critical disease and hospitalization."
Fox News' Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.